One arm of the JET program possibly misappropriating funds

Very interesting post at Japan Probe on possible quasi-corruption at CLAIR, the affiliate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications in charge of its share of the JET program:

The Council of Local Authorities for International Relations (CLAIR), the governmental organization responsible for the JET Program, could be in trouble. Popular Osaka governor Toru Hashimoto has started questioning CLAIR’s use of funds and has announced that the Osaka government may reduce its financial backing to CLAIR next year (90% of CLAIR’s financial backing comes from money paid by local governments, and Osaka pays a big slice).

The JET program is one of those rare Japanese government programs in which overlapping ministries successfully cooperate – the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is in charge of most of the administrative details of selecting applicants, the education ministry places them in schools, and the internal affairs ministry coordinates with local governments. Well, it looks like part of the compromise reached between the ministries was that at least the internal affairs side gets to set up a swank suite of perks for retired bureaucrats.

As I have done before, I am cross-posting my comment at Japan Probe to encourage discussion of the issue on my comments section. I began in response to earlier commenters who apparently take any mention of the JET program to debate on the JET program’s merits and the usefulness of eikaiwa teachers in general (of course I would never do that):

Did you notice that this issue has NOTHING to do with the merits of the JET program itself? The problem is that the bureaucrats have turned parts of the program into their own slush fund, which enriches their post-retirement accounts and improves their golf scores at the expense of the Japanese taxpayers and maybe even people who didn’t get accepted to the JET program (since part of the acceptance cutoff is no doubt due to budget constraints). It’s so laughable for them to have overseas offices since they don’t even process the applications – that is the foreign ministry’s job.

This misappropriation issue isn’t any reason to end the JET program. In fact, considering all the extra money they are raking in it looks like they could be accepting even more JETs. I have argued elsewhere that it may have outlived whatever functionality it had as an English teaching program, but as Yomiuri documented around its 20th anniversary the program itself has by and large been extremely beneficial to the teachers who come and have a once in a lifetime experience (or get a foothold for a life in Japan), the schools who want foreign English teachers, and Japan’s soft power as the program generates massive goodwill and a niche workforce of Japan-savvy English speakers.

But if one of the organizations involved is being exploited for no real reason but to provide an excuse for internal affairs bureaucrats to get post-retirement salaries and live the Japanese dream of endless enkai and golf with their coworkers, then Hashimoto is right to use his spending authority to try and put an end to it. As much of a showboat as he can be, that’s an example of real leadership and sticking up for what’s right.

I understand the motivation for post-retirement income, but what I will never get is why these oyaji seem to love drinking in their work suits and basically never leaving the damn office. If you are going to misappropriate funds, at least do what American politicians do and get sweet renovations to your house!

They have 12.7 billion yen a year in unused funding! I propose using that money to send free cookies to every woman who gets pregnant. It will help alleviate the low birth rate AND I’ll only overcharge the government 50 billion yen 5 billion yen a year — big savings!

9 thoughts on “One arm of the JET program possibly misappropriating funds”

  1. (Disclaimer: Former JET)

    CLAIR use to put up the new JETs at the Keio Plaza Hotel in Nishi Shinjuku, and then have a year end conference for returning JETs down in Kobe. Some of that money, like travel costs, came from the JETs’ municipalities, but a honkin’ chunk of it came from CLAIR. And it was funny because it was always the CLAIR folks that would give the keynote addresses, where some piece of luggage in a suit would wobble up to the podium and crank out two sentences in English, usually to the effect that he couldn’t speak English and that he would do the rest of the speech in Japanese, with consecutive interpretation to rescue the situation.

    Of course, I was witnessing this years before I knew what “amakudari” was all about.

    2008 was the (latest) year of food scandals, and perhaps 2009 will be the year of the language scandals. Kanji Kentei, and now JET? What next, NOVA? (oh, wait…)

  2. Is the kanryo-slush-fund part really at the expense of the prospective teacher? The program probably wouldn’t be getting as much money from the local governments if it wasn’t sending some of their people to midtown Manhattan–this appears to be part of the motivation to fund it.

    Anyway, this probably still pales in comparison to the river-paving budget, and at least it actually accomplishes something.

  3. I am just saying it could be. It’s over $120 million, so even if one JET cost $60,000 a year all included they could accept over 2,000 more people, 2/3 more than the current total. While I am sure the money is budgeted for something else, theoretically it could be put to much more effective use anywhere (such as my free cookie idea).

  4. Awesome post. It is such a waste that this is posted here on a blog. This kind of stuff should be printed in Vanity Fair or something.

  5. $120 million could easily fund the “Vanity Fair – gaijin edition” that Curzon proposes. It could even be positioned as a JET sister publication, with free subscriptions for the ALTs and CIRs.

  6. Yeah but aren’t the JET salaries actually paid by the local governments, with the national government only doing the recruiting and so on? That’s why the number of JETs has declined, as local governments and schools decide to save money by bypassing JET and hiring through those ALT-hiring companies that advertise on Gaijinpot all the time.

  7. Sort of. It is funded through redistributed local taxes (地方交付税) so all prefectures have equal access to the program. But local finances are getting squeezed so it is possible that the decline comes from municipalities opting to use those funds for something else while getting a better deal on private-sector ALTs.

    I made this point back in 2006. Maybe pretty soon I’ll do an update to see how the program has fared over the past 3 years or so.

Comments are closed.